Star Stories, part 11: How the Fisher Brought Summer to the North
Miin-giizis /Abitaa-niibini-giizis (Berry Moon/Halfway Summer Moon), July 21, 2021
STAR TRAVELER Under the Fisher Star Hearing the story anew Deep inside my heart Wanderlust it grew All it took was one Shining brightly in the night My mind now races blindly This is spirit flight So much more is out there Not bound to what I hold Imagination is endless As constellations unfold Skipping from star to star A child playing in the dark Happy laughter in dreams The sky is now my park Days go by in sunshine Warmth will never fail Come night under the fisher Once again I set sail...
- Poem by Simone McLeod ©Simone McLeod Fisher Star Creations
~~ Our Star Knowledge Defines Who We Are ~~
From of old, the star constellations and star knowledge of our Peoples, the Ininiwak (Cree) and Ojibwe Anishinaabeg, directly relate to aandakiiwinan (seasonal changes), nandawenjige (hunting and fishing) and gathering activities, manidookewinan (ceremonies), and of course our aadizookewin (storytelling). The stars are in our DNA; they define who we are, and have always helped us to survive, as a People. Probably the most well-known star pattern is the Big Dipper, which is part of the greater constellation called Ursa Major on the Western star maps. The Anishinaabeg and Cree Peoples call the Big Dipper Ojiig-anang or Ochek Atchakosuk (Fisher Star). Ojiig-anang or Ochek Atchakosuk is an asterism of several bright stars resembling an ojiig (fisher marten) with an arrow sticking in its tail; called Big Dipper, or Bear by the Euro-Americans. Ojiig, or Ochek, is a weasel, or marten-like animal, small and fierce with a long body, an expert and lively hunter of the northwoods, who represents the doodem of hunters among several bands of Anishinaabeg from the Great Lakes area. He stands particularly for singleness of purpose, and good sense. Ojiig-anang lies just above the horizon from October to December. In December, it emerges in the northeast sky. Throughout the long winter the Fisher makes its way across the night sky as his wife accompanies him, and both rotate endlessly around Giiwedin Anang, the Home Returning Star (North Star or Polaris) - which sits at the tip of the Little Fisher/ Little Dipper's handle. The Anishinaabeg and Ininewak Peoples know that spring is approaching as soon as Ojiig-anang is directly overhead at nightfall. The rise of Ojiig-anang also signals the time to prepare for aninaatig ozhiga'igewin or tapping of the maple trees. The above black and white line drawing and the wedding band set shown below, both created by Zhaawano Giizhik, depict the aadizookaan (traditional, sacred story) of how Big Fisher and his bride Little Fisher (the Little Dipper) completed the arrangement of the skies.
14K white gold bands with red gold interiors ans inlays depicting the Fisher and the moon phases in the night sky.
~~ The Sacred Ojibwe tale of the Fisher Star ~~
Many, many moons ago, when during the Ice Age the ruthless Ga-biboonikaan (Bringer Of Winter) had the earth still covered with snow and ice all the year round, a daring Ojibwe Anishinaabe hunter by the name of Ojiig assumed the shape of the Fisher and, with the aid of the Wolverine, ascended to the realms of the Sky Beings that dwell the Jibay-miikana (Milky Way, depicted in the top left corner of the drawing) in a desperate attempt to steal Niibin, the summer. However, when the celestial beings caught Ojiig opening the wadabiimakakoon (baskets) filled with summer birds and fowls, setting them free and letting warm breezes descend to the cold earth below, they wounded him with their magic arrows. Hereupon Ojiig, who still had the shape of a fisher, died from loss of blood from his tail. GICHI-MANIDOO, the Great Mystery, as it was completing the formation of the earth and the skies, ordained that Ojiig's newly wedded bride Ojiigansikwe (Little Fisher Woman), who also came from earth, would leave her starry footprints round her deceased husband. Thus Ojiig and Ojiigansikwe completed the arrangement of the skies.
The drawing also depicts the brave Little Fisher Woman as she ascends into the sky in search of Ojiig and to escape the wrath of the sky women, who were jeaulous of Little Fisher for she, and she alone, stole Ojjig's heart. The Sky Women pursued Little Fisher woman through the whole universe, shattering the earth and the seas with their lightning and thunder - until she found momentary shelter under a giant rock that to this day is known as Akakojish, (the place of) the great Groundhog (depicted in the lower left corner of the picture).
The band to the left depicts the Little Fisher (Little Dipper) asterism with the North Star in the tip of the Dipper's handle, while the shape of her husband, the Fisher Marten, is visible in the band to the right. Together, as they rule the night sky all year round, the Fisher asterisms traditionally serve as an important navigation tool for the Anishinaabeg and Ininewak Peoples of the Northwoods.
At clear nights the Ininewak and Anishinaabeg can still see the wedded couple who dwell forever in the skies and they still revere Ojiig and Ojiiganse for having, through their sacrifice, succeeded in procuring the varying seasons. They became the everlasting signpost of the seasons, and at the same time a reminder to respect, and be grateful for, what was loaned to us - and, above all, to not take blessings for granted. Thanks to Ojiig and his courageous spouse Ojiigansikwe, our Peoples now have from seven to eight moons without snow…